Travels with Dick and Karen

Eclipse May 2012

Part 2


After the eclipse we stretched ourselves a bit to reach a campground we had previously visited on our "Volcano" trip: Burney Falls in MacArthur-Burney Memorial State Park. It's a great campground located about 35 miles north of Lassen Volcanic National Park

That's a 130-foot drop with fascinating incursions of water that took underground passages to reach the cliff face.

We turned south towards Yosemite. Mt Lassen began to dominate the view out the windshield and from a new burn viewing rest stop high above the road between Hat Creek and Old Station, California. The road across Mt Lassen was still buried in snow, so we took a lower-altitude side road just east of it. We eventually caught up with CA-89 and snaked our way southeast through dozens of tiny towns embedded in the forests.

We eventually found, and began to semi-circumnavigate the west shore of, Lake Tahoe. We camped part way down the west shore of Lake Tahoe at the William Kent National Forest campground, which straddles the road in Sunnyside, 3 miles south of Tahoe City. We shared the entire 80-site campground with only one other party, despite the fact that almost all of the nearby California State Park campgrounds were not yet open for the season.

Continuing down the Lake, we came to Emerald Bay State Park ...
And a bit further on, Baldwin Beach was sunny and almost warm
We continued south, now fully east of the Sierra Nevadas, skirting the Nevada border. This westward view shows this drier edge of California
We joined US 395, which proceeded to take us over three significant passes (8300, 7500 and 8100 feet) before depositing us on the shore of Mono Lake at 6378 feet. We enjoyed the visitor's center but chose to forgo hiking down to the limestone tufa formations in order to reach Yosemite in time to secure a campsite.

So we left Mono Lake and whipped the Sprinter up and over the highest pass of the trip: 9945 foot Tioga Pass which forms the eastern boundary of Yosemite Park. This year had seen this road open a month earlier than expected, which was lucky for us. Stunning vistas greeted us at every turn. (note to driver: stay on road)

... some of the shapes were very recognizable from Yosemite posters

Trees were twisted and stunted by their exposure to altitude, cold and winds. Lack of loose soil didn't help. 

Frequently the rocks and lighting just compelled us to stop. 

We reached the western side of the park, and found that the National Forest campgrounds we'd hoped to use were all full. There was going to be a Folk Music Festival nearby, and the area was packed (beyond the normal draw of Yosemite).

So we availed ourselves of the National Forest policy of "distributed camping": Unless signed otherwise, you're allowed to camp anywhere along a forest road, provided that you're off the road, and doing it in a spot where someone had done it before (evidence of old campfire, etc).
So once more we found ourselves in an extremely spectacular, extremely private, campground... 

...except for the deer. 

The next morning we started our three-day Memorial Day Weekend visit to Yosemite by continuing up the side road that our "campsite" branched from. It wove up and up along the path of the Tuolumne River to the Hetch Hetchy Valley, now filled as a reservoir serving distant San Francisco.

The lower section of Wapama Falls can be seen as the white "L" shape at the foot of the cliff on the left. Tueeulala Falls should have been cascading down the full height of that cliff face, but its ephemeral presence requires cooperative snow and weather conditions.

O'Shaughnessy Dam's spillways provided rainbows
(and clouds of mist to walk through)

A tunnel on the other side of the dam provides access to an around-the-reservoir path that leads to 840-foot Tueeulala Falls and 1,700-foot (via multiple stages) Wapama Falls.

Here's what our sun-dazzled eyes saw of the tunnel.

Here's what the camera saw... 
Even in the tunnel we find life: see the frog?
We explored a bit of the quiet and beautiful lakeshore beyond the tunnel, but didn't continue on to the falls.
The Tuolumne river downstream from the dam
Trees, stone and water create the beauty and magic of Yosemite. 
So it was back out to the main road, and then on into Yosemite Valley itself. Despite being the day before Memorial Day weekend, the roads were not packed. Scenic pullouts frequently beckoned.
The Merced River runs through it... and Yosemite Falls is being blown into wispyness in the distance. 
Looking back at El Capitan 
Yosemite Falls a bit closer 
Bridal Veil Falls 
Bridal Veil, with Half Dome peeking (peaking?) over the ridge 
No, we weren't alone, but it wasn't in any sense "crowded"
see the wolf? Low traffic density and legal speeds on the road to Glacier Point helped.

or this one?

(no, he didn't have his hat for donations... we checked)

see the water falls?

That's the Merced River before it calms down on the floor of the valley. These are Nevada Fall above Vernal Fall, with Half Dome studiously ignoring us.
(from Washburn Point, on the way to Glacier Point)

and the bears?

Mother and cubs between Washburn and Glacier point

From Glacier Point we could look down into the Yosemite valley complex and locate our campground... and that Yosemitie Falls was still falling...

Glacier Point's view up the valley 

Squeezing ourselves into Yosemite on fairly limited notice forced us to spend the first night south of the park in the Summervale Campground. That placed us near the entrance to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias at the southwest corner of Yosemite. They're well worth the visit and the walk. Take water.

The Grizzly Giant, one of the largest trees in the park. Roughly 1800 years old. 
Fires are necessary for germination of Sequoia seedlings
Once more, we weren't the only visitors 
The browns and yellows of the soil were occasionally interrupted by spots of red.

They added dashes of whimsey with their colorful and strange looking flowers

Sarcodes Sanguinea (snow flowers) are parasites on buried fungi, which themselves are symbyotes on the roots of the sequoia. These flowers steal sugars from that relationship

(footnote: you'd be surprised and amused at how much effort went into getting the above caption correct as we built this webpage)

Looking up through the burnt-out center of the Telescope Tree (pictured below)
note feet for scale
The Clothespin Tree, cut by numerous fires.
Our second night's campsite was at North Pines in Yosemite Valley. So we parked the Sprinter there and took the free round-the-sights shuttle bus to various walking paths. Yosemite Falls welcomed us back.
We weren't crowded, but we weren't alone
(on the path to the base of the falls)
We encountered many Chinese tourists and their flag-toting guides... just like when we were in China

The next day dawned cold, cloudy, with developing snow in the Valley... so we escaped.
We weren't in any hurry, so we decided to take a road less-travelled: California 49. It was a scenic delight (if you don't mind switch-backing up and down innumerable shoulders, ridges and valleys, which we don't). We rolled west out of the mountains, but definitely remained in the foothills.

Next Stop: John Day Fossil Beds

Oregon to CA Eclipse Yosemite John Day Fossil Beds


all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

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